On Tuesday, June 4, the Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) voted unanimously to advance completion of the Mark Clark Expressway. This is great news and major milestone.
The fact that the vote occurred at all was a welcomed surprise. We knew conversations were underway to chart a path forward, but until the start of the meeting there was no certainty that a vote on the Mark Clark would happen at all. The meeting agenda posted online made no mention of the project.
The JBRC meeting start time was delayed by almost an hour as members of the committee hammered out a deal. Once the meeting began, Senator Alexander, who chaired the subcommittee tasked with evaluating project funding, made a motion to add the Mark Clark Expressway to the meeting agenda. Shortly thereafter, the vote we’ve been pushing for since January finally happened.
The JBRC unanimously approved $24 million ($12 million from Charleston County and $12 million dollars from the State Infrastructure Bank) to be spent over two years to complete preliminary engineering and the permitting process to determine the final cost estimate of the project. The JBRC reserved the right to reexamine the project if final cost projection comes in dramatically over budget or if local funding is withdrawn.
If the final project cost comes in at or below the now estimated $725 million, and if Charleston County Council maintains strong resolve to complete the project, any future vote by the JBRC will be a formality. In fact, there may be no need to issue bonds to complete the project, thus eliminating the need to return to the JBRC altogether.
This is a big win for residents, commuters, employers and the entire region.
If you see Governor Henry McMaster, Chairman Elliott Summey,
Representative Leon Stavrinakis or Senator Paul Campbell, please thank them for
their efforts to keep this project on track.
And a sincere thanks to all of you who made a phone call, sent a letter or emailed members of the General Assembly, the South Carolina Infrastructure Bank, the Joint Bond Review Committee or County Council. Without your constant support and encouragement, the project could have been killed.
As for the lawsuit you’ve read about in the media, it is important to note that the plaintiffs aren’t challenging the legitimacy of the 2016 referendum. No projects were listed on the ballot question approved by voters. Instead they are suing based on a Charleston County Council ordinance that cited projects to be completed with sales tax revenue.
Language from that ordinance reads: “financing the costs of highways, roads, streets, bridges, and other transportation-related projects facilities, and drainage facilities related thereto, and mass transit systems operated by Charleston County or jointly operated by the County and other governmental entities, which may include, but not limited to…”
Aside from the clearly stated provision that the project list is not exhaustive; all of the projects listed in the ordinance are alive and underway. Furthermore, many projects not listed in the ordinance will be funded with the revenue from the transportation sales tax and ordinances passed by a county council routinely change.
The courts will have an opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the facts…at significant taxpayer expense. But don’t let your confidence wane. Work to complete the Mark Clark Expressway is moving forward as we speak despite the lawsuit. This long overdue project is on the path to completion.